Next in line, the Adventure of the Seas rocked up in Aruba’s pretty capital of Oranjestad. The local motto here is ‘One Happy Island’ and, after a few hours here, it’s not too difficult to understand just why.
It’s a chocolate box pretty kind of place, with fussy, flamingo pink buildings overlooking a waterfront strewn with yachts. To the north, the lush, expansive sands of Eagle and Palm Beaches invite para gliders, scuba divers, and those simply in need of some weapons grade relaxation.
Me? I just strolled, took pictures on the afternoon, and then dropped into my favourite waterfront bar- The Paddock- for a couple of ice cold Heinekens. Dutch beer in a Dutch bar; it just makes sense, especially on such a muggy, overcast day as this one. Make no mistake; this really is Holland in the Caribbean and yes, you do hear quite a lot of the mother tongue spoken out here, too.
Late afternoon, and I’m aboard a smart, snow white catamaran for a sunset cruise around the harbour. The sails go aloft, and we bumble out onto the sparkling blue briny. There’s free rum and other similar stuff for our crew of apprentice pirates and, once clear of the pier, we’re given our leave to wander around the boat at will.
I’m quite surprised at how many people simply remained glued to their seats, to be honest. It’s almost as if they are afraid of any actual contact with the elements all around us. For a full two hours, I lapped up the sensation of the warm breeze in my hair, and the gentle rise and fall of the ‘cat’ as she bucked the briny head on.
There’s something intense, truly elemental, about being this close to the water. I can never get enough of it. Also close to water- very close, in fact- was the rum, which was as weak as the water sloshing around on the floor of the men’s toilet. But the rum wasn’t the point; it was the sights on offer that I had hoped would be far more visually intoxicating.
Sadly, Mother Nature declined to play ball, gifting us only jagged, crimson smears that slashed the horizon as the sun set at the end of what had been an all day haze. But, as darkness fell, she instead gifted us a curve ball that drew gasps of awe and admiration right across the boat.
Sudden, ragged displays of lightning flickered across our bows as darkness encroached, coming and going for a few minutes on end. It looked as if some random deity was casually flicking a light switch on and off, just for the fun of it. Deep and intense, this stunning, totally unexpected visual feast rolled right across our horizon. I’m pretty sure that it seared itself into the memory of most of us lucky enough to get to see it.
Once the boat had bumbled to a halt along the floodlit waterfront, I wandered back down to The Paddock for a couple of quiet farewell beers. Pools of light shimmered on the ink black water; the evening air was as warm as toast, with just the hint of a cool breeze floating around the town.
We were in port until 2230, so there was ample time for those last beers ashore. And that’s what I love about cruising the Caribbean to this day; those special little moments where you can simply kick back, meet and talk to strangers, and form new bonds.
I’m all for that, personally. There’s more than enough negative, destructive rhetoric out there as things currently stand. Me, I’m all for talking to people from wherever, whoever they are. Because, if humanity is sometimes depressing, more often than not it is still damn fascinating. And, in the Caribbean, there truly are no strangers; only drinking partners that you haven’t met yet.
Sweet, soulful stuff, and so life affirming. Special memories made anew in a special place. Fine times in a fine style. What’s not to love?